Life

Military Spouse

Seven years ago I fell in love with a cadet at the Air Force Academy and abandoning my obsessive compulsive tendency to over-think situations, married the man of my dreams, without a second thought to what a military life might mean. I am still learning but I’m going to put this out there- somewhere in all that is my brain (wrinkles and the weird matter), I have this image of what a military wife acts like, what she does and says, and generally how she is. Where do these images come from, I don’t have the faintest idea… but never-the-less they are present and flashing neon lights in my mind.
Plain truth, I miss my husband when he goes on his Air Force “mandatory” journeys. I worry for his safety and the safety of the other men and women around him, and knowing that there’s little I can do for him just intensifies the bizarre scenarios playing out in my mind. Knowing very little of what’s happening in his life while he’s gone or when he might be coming home to us, makes me feel like a bit of an outsider. Not in the sense that my husband doesn’t talk to me, more that he’s limited in what he can tell me. I know it’s for the best, and I want to rationalize that in my wrinkly brain matter- but for me it’s about wanting to help him, find solutions, be his sounding board, and be that “perfect” military wife that I’m so positive every other wife in the universe is being. Is this even a fair game? Am I supposed to be doing things differently? Where’s that “how-to” guide I’ve been searching for? I attempt to make my daily life resemble some normalcy while my husband is gone. Sometimes said routine will consist of crocodile sized tears, laughter with great girlfriends, an occasional very tall glass of chilled white wine (or more than occasional- depending on the week), some chocolate, peeing with the door open, and dogs allowed on the bed type of days and nights. I will be the cliché and admit that the saying “with distance, the heart grows fonder”, is very much true in our marriage. That might be the hopeless romantic in me combined with the happy military wife when her military man comes home- but being the kissy, lovey, hugging, and adoring wife when my husband comes home feels like the one of the few parts of the military wife gambit that I’m getting down pat. We become reacquainted with one another when he returns from his long stretches away from home, and life resumes as it always does.
It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride when it comes to our military relocations; every few years we are on a new escapade, and change everything we’ve come to know about our lives. There is a part of me, though small, but ever present that’s angry at the fact that I will uproot every aspect of our lives for the Air Force. We become familiar with our daily routines, the furry love-children have very serious potty schedules to work out. Very serious. Then there’s the eager woman in me that is thrilled about our next home, where ever it may be. I concern myself over furniture arrangements, change out our pictures in their frames, I start thinking of fun adventures we can take where we live next, and I become accustomed with the new houses’ quirks. I’m high, I’m low, I’m happy about where we are, I’m sad about where we are. It’s a very complicated roller coaster of emotions. Even I have trouble holding on to the ride and wanting to raise my hands at the same time- then there’s the crying from laughter and yelling from fear. I need two heads and four arms, plus a few extra legs to even out the entirety of weird.
My coping mechanism through all of this is family- whether it be our blood relations or friendly family we’ve made along the way, they help me through this crazy maze of ours. There’s a piece of my family that goes where we go, no matter what the distance may be, but I also wish I didn’t have to carry them in my heart but rather see them regularly like I so desperately need at times. While being a safe distance from family is typically a good idea for me, being numerous states or an entire continent away is a trying feat- I’m attached, and sometimes I need early morning coffee-chats with my mother, or my father’s cheek kisses and our loving banter. I rely on my friendly family for my not-so-strong moments, and they happen frequently. We build relationships over the course of time at any given base, and to know (in the strange wrinkly area of my brain) that I will leave them one day, is very difficult. Sometimes there’s still a connection with friends from “before”, and other times the friendly flame slowly dies down. There’s a piece of me that I give away, to that friend and confidant that I won’t get back and I silently wonder if they’re doing ok, what their life is like, if one day we’ll cross paths again. I wonder to myself sometimes; if I should give another piece of myself to other people. What if I run out of pieces? What if they break the piece of my heart? Keeping and making friends isn’t easy, but I will say- sometimes people aren’t meant to be in your life as a friend, and that hurts too. What if my friendship is something that keeps another military spouse together, like a few of the spouses I’ve met have done for me? Those who need a saving grace, much like I did and likely will again, deserve to find that in someone who understands- which should be me. The perfect military wife wouldn’t even question making friends or putting herself out there, she’d have an abundance of friends coupled with a hard outer shell and she has a phone book bursting with names and numbers they’ve gathered through their military years.
I have moments of complete clarity, which are suddenly clouded by judgments of myself as a person and as a wife. I had plans for what I was going to do with my life, I was going to school to be the person I saw myself being in just a few years. Yet, as I write this, I am no longer in school (my Biology and lab courses that are required are just not my “cup of tea”…) nor am I currently trying to pursue my Associate’s Degree. Saying out loud that I don’t have a degree feels like I’ve let myself and my husband down. In those gray areas of my brain, I feel like I should have a degree and a career that is functional and openly movable. Right? That seems legitimate. What about my career? Do I get one? Do I want one? What if I am a “stay-at-home-wife”, will I be judged? Do I care what they want to say about me? The craziest part of all of this- I’m so quick to second guess every thought I have, but in an instant my husband would say to “do it, I support whatever decisions you want to make…”, and here I am making a mountain (literally) out of a mole hill.
Is it the elephant that remembers everything, they have really excellent memories- right? I have trouble remembering how old I am (this is actually incredibly true and I know it drives my husband nuts), never mind remembering everyone involved in my husband’s day or who the four-star general is and what his wife’s name is. Names, those are pretty gosh darn important, doesn’t matter who you are or what rank you have. I was once told to associate the person with something about them: “Richard with glasses”, or “Sandra with beautiful hair”, I remember the hair and glasses but forget who they go with! When that special moment comes and I’m required to remember said individuals, I’m the wife whisper-talking in my husband’s ear: “Who is that? They’re getting closer, WHO IS THAT?!” Typically not only do I not hear my husband (because I swear I’m slightly deaf when I desperately need to hear pertinent information), but I also utterly botch their name and rank and continue to have total diarrhea of the mouth. My usual fixer for award silences or situations is talking (non-stop) OR shutting down completely, and really, either way you look at it- it’s definitely not an ideal situation. I’m not proud, I see the perfectly poised wife laughing at the right time, talking about appropriate topics, listening when needed, and she stops talking when she should. Truthfully, that is not me in any way and I’m not sure I ever will be, there has to be some sort of wire malfunction in my brain matter when it comes to important situations and functions.
Maybe the perfect military spouse is a combination of Betty Crocker, a classic Stepford wife, with a little bit of “Suzy-homemaker” thrown in there… and I am none of those things. I tell myself that perfection is nothing to strive for, it’s unattainable, but rather to be happy with what I can offer. Be happy with what I, Samantha, can offer my darling husband and our furry-love children. I wouldn’t change a thing about our military life. Sure, it can be difficult and sometimes I cry, but we are doing the best we can with what we have. We share our love, our joy, the troubles, the pain, even the misunderstandings and hardships- we share them together and we grow strong together as a military proud family.
From the bottom of my imperfect heart; I support, respect, and am in awe of the men and women who have served and continue to serve the United States of America. Thank you, military members, veterans and their families for your service and your sacrifice.

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